“Tears came streaming down my face,” said Bertha Estrellita Gomez, when she received a shipment containing long lost medals from her dad’s service in the U.S. Army.
Thirty-five years ago, Bertha, living in Jourdanton went to visit her mom, Senaida Gonzales who was in a nursing home. During her visit, Bertha went to her mom’s apartment and found it ransacked. One of the first things Bertha realized was that the medals her father, U. S. Army Staff Sgt. Doroteo H. Gonzales, had earned were missing. “I cried because I thought I would never see my dad’s medals ever again. I only knew of two medals he had earned, the Purple Heart and the Silver Star,” said Bertha.
In October, 2015 Bertha sought out help from the Veteran’s Service Center in Jourdanton. Elizabeth Branson, administrative assistant, began all the necessary paperwork to attempt to have the medals replaced. Bertha said she will be forever grateful for the help she received from Branson and the center.
This past April, Bertha received a most welcomed package from the National Personnel Records Center, Military Personnel Records (NPRCMPR). Inside the package were the two medals that Bertha remembered, a Purple Heart (with 2 Bronze Oak Leaf Clusters) and the Silver Star. However, a bigger surprise was the other medals Bertha did not know existed including the Good Conduct Medal; American Defense Service Medal; European- African-Middle Eastern Campaign Medal with 2 Bronze Service Stars with Arrowhead; World War II Victory Medal; Combat Infantryman Badge – 1st Award; Honorable Service Lapel Button – WWII; and Marksman Badge with Rifle Bar.
“My dad served his country for seven years. I didn’t know much about my dad’s life in the service. He was a very private man, but very proud of his country,” related Bertha. She said that her dad was in the VA Hospital in San Antonio for nine days before he passed away. Bertha had thought he was getting better. “I wheeled him down to the lobby. I was reading the story of Audie Murphy when my dad said to me ‘I fought alongside Audie Murphy’,” Bertha said. “What? Really! Wow!” But, her dad did not say anymore. Staff Sgt. Gonzales’ connection with Audie Murphy was during the Naples-Foggia Campaign, September 9, 1943 – January 21, 1944 in the Mediterranean Theater. Gonzales served in two battles, Naples – Foggia Campaign and Rome – Arno Campaign.
“I’m so proud of my dad. I remember that when he bought a new pair of shoes, he had to take them to the shoe shop to add about two inches to the right shoe since he was crippled in the right leg from a war injury. I remember he wasn’t afraid of anything or anyone. He was very strict with us kids.”
Sgt. Gonzales was born, February 6, 1912, and died February 26, 1976, at the Audie L. Murphy Memorial Veterans Hospital at age 64. He was the son of Felipe V. and Juana (Hernandez) Gonzales from Seguin, Texas.
Doroteo married Senaida Flores, April 22, 1949, in Robstown, Texas. They had seven children, four girls and three boys. Only two girls are now living – Sylvia Cortez in Victoria and Bertha Gomez in Jourdanton.
Speaking of her childhood, Bertha said, “When I was very young, I remember seeing him leave early to work at the base in Kingsville. Then when I grew a bit older, I remember moving to a farm.
“We learned how to work at the farm – how to drive a tractor – how to pick cotton. Never will understand why my dad left his job at the base to work on a farm.
Both of Bertha’s brothers were drafted into the service and served in Vietnam. “My dad was very proud of his sons,” said Bertha. “I also remember that my dad would call me from work before I went to bed. I was ‘daddy’s girl’ for sure
“Before he passed away, I lived in Longview, Texas and a nurse called me and told me, ‘he wants to see you children’. He loved his children and his grandchildren very much.
“It comforts me to know I have a piece of him- these medals are very special to me. I feel like he is with me always.”